The rich history of Marabastad



Lively Marabastad, situated on the western side of Pretoria, is known to many of us as a vibrant trading area. Marabastad is now the Asiatic Bazaar, but everyone still calls it by its ‘birth name’. Modern Marabastad is characterized by hooting taxis, hawkers and sex workers. Petty thieves, merchants, priests, sex workers and addicts compete for space in Marabastad. But one thing prevailed in Marabastad, against all odds: hope…


Credit photo :


April 19 th, 2015



In the late 1800s, the village of Schoolplaats was home to a large number of African servants. This soon resulted in an overflow and a new township to the north of Schoolplaats was established in August 1888: Marabastad. Marabastad was named after a local headman from one of the nearby villages who had worked in the area as a chief constable and interpreter.

The Anglo-Boer war had forced a growing number of refugees into the area and further expansion was needed. Soon squatter camps emerged and a temporary township called New Marabastad was established in 1900 to accommodate the refugees. What was meant to be a temporary settlement became a permanent one. Residents from Old Marabastad were relocated to to what would later become Atteridgeville, and by 1920, Old Marabastad itself had been destroyed in order to make way for a new sewage system.

Cultural heritage

On Mugul Street, you will find the Masjid-ur-Rahman mosque that was build to relieve the former Muslim place of worship that was opened in 1929. The mosque was the second oldest after the Queen Street Mosque in Pretoria CBD, build in 1928. In 5th Street, you’ll find the Mariamman Temple, established in 1905. The Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Pretoria, dedicated to the South Indian Hindu goddess Mariamman. Mariamman’s devotees believed she cures smallpox and other infectious diseases. The Mariamman Temple overlooks two ZCC congregations below where the Star and Dove Zionists gather to worship every Sunday.

Modern Marabastad

Unfortunately, this vibrant, culturally rich township is paying the price due to poor administration and lack of necessary public services. Sol Plaatje, social commentator and African intellectual, describes modern Marabastad as: “…unhealthy and ramshackle tin hovels (whose appearance spells extreme heat in the summer and excessive gold in winter), lined along rocky and craggy apologies for streets, unsatisfactory because of inadequate water pipes: a dirty and unsanitary place.”


Things to do in Pretoria

  • Enjoy the spectacular view from Freedom Park
  • Visit the Pretoria Arts Museum in Arcadia, home to a diversity of fine arts
  • Visit the 85-hectre Pretoria Zoo with 117 specimens on display, including the Big Five
  • Visit the Union Buildings
  • Enjoy spectacular stage productions at the State Theatre in the CBD or Breytenbach Theatre in Sunnyside
  • Enjoy African cuisine and music in Gerhard Moerdyk Street, Sunnyside


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